Two weeks ago, while a better part of the Free World was aghast when Pia Toscano was eliminated from that show that sports a four-letter word (Idol) in its title, Jacqui E. was battling to stay alive on a stage in her own little reality show corner of the universe.

Jacqui, who sports red (can you say flaming red?) hair, sings and looks the part of No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani. She made it the Top 60 of this season’s American Idol show but now she has placed that firmly in her rearview mirror.

You see, Jacqui is in the Top 13 of Johnny Wright’s On The Spot.

Yes, it’s another reality music show that vaguely resembles Idol with the main differences being this show’s identity is to pick the “next great super group” and it is all done solely on-line.

Jacqui has made it through a series of eliminations and now she is one step from being named to the Top 10 which means … well, it means a lot cause it will put her into Johnny’s Boot Camp and give her a trip to L.A. where she’ll be schooled by professionals in the art form she so relishes to be a part of – music.

Jacqui came to San Jose from Chicago where she had gone to the Chicago School of Performing Arts to study music. That worked out just fine, but the yearning for a career and the expense of attending that school wasn’t going to go through streets of Chi-Town and she knew that so she headed west.

“I wound up taking classes there for two years but it was out of my league financially so I moved to California with a couple of my best friends,” she said.

And that led to more education at San Jose City College, some more at San Jose State University and eventually a teaching degree and the opportunity to put food on the table from the stipend she has received while teaching pre-kindergarten (ages 1-5).

 “I really don’t know how we wound up in San Jose,” she said with a laugh.

But that journey led to a real rebirth of  the musical story of her life as it started to resurface.

“I started reassessing what I wanted out of my life and I always felt like I wanted to be really successful in my life. The reason I teach preschool is because I love it, something I could do during the day so I could pursue music at night. But music is my passion.

“I’ve been in dance for the last five years. I always gave it my full attention. But at the same time I was so caught up in teaching.”

But then the music bug resurfaced in a big way. First it was that four-letter word – Idol.

“I’ve gone to Giants games at AT&T Park (in San Francisco) and instead of seeing old men in line buying beers you saw all these teenagers wailing in the stands. Everyone was singing.

“Once I went through the Idol process I said I can’t stop now. That kinda validated my feeling about singing.”

She made that cut in SF, advanced along with 59 others and off she went to Las Vegas.

“I didn’t really get a lot of feedback. They just brought us out and told us who was moving on. I had goofy blonde hair then.”

But that negative seemingly, at least so far, has turned into a huge positive for her.

“I literally booked a bus trip to audition for this show (On The Spot), rode the bus all night to L.A. and literally got there in time for the audition. It paid off. They took my audition and added it to the site. That was back I January.”

“They’ll take a group to boot camp in L.A. the first day of May. That’s where we will see who is really going to make it for the band. They’ll get to work with vocalists and choreographers. I went to school for theater and that is what my life was like for two years. I have a ton of performing experience. I’ve been on stage since I was 11. It’s kinda my passion.

“I felt the need to explore different avenues. I have these moments when I kinda look like an ingénue type girl … so I have been getting past that because  there aren’t very many of those. So, that’s when I decided to come to California. For the past five years I’ve played in clubs in SF. And everybody always asked me, ‘What are you going to do next?’”

Well, Jacqui’s “next” was Idol and now, more importantly, it’s On The Spot.

“It was amazing to be in the Idol Top 60 and see what they were looking for. Lot of soul singers. I like music like the Etta James, I collect vinyl, anything old-school soul. I pick it up and grab it. I don’t think people realize how much they like it. I think there might be a way to bring it back in a new-school way. Bruno Mars and even Fantasia’s new album is very old school. I think people are into it. I’m a huge sucker for the ‘60s.”

Shows like Idol and On The Spot continually harp on looking for contestants who have the “it” factor. Just how does Jacqui perceive that?

“I went to school with a lot of people with a lot of talent and I think that the it factor is that special thing you have behind your eyes. Don’t close your eyes when you sing because it internalizes your performances. You have moved on and it’s connecting you with the audience.

“So I’ll just keep working on my solo singing career with my band if I don’t make it to the final four. But before I die I have to make a record.”

Now, with only 13 left in the “On The Spot” competition and four of them ultimately being selected for this initial “super group” she just might be closer than even she realizes to that goal of hers.

Note: You can check out On The Spot at the following website. A new session is added each Friday: